A scientist recently pointed me out to his colleagues. “That is not Carl Zimmer,” he declared.
The scientist was Mark Gerstein. He was sitting at a table in his office at Yale University, flanked by two members of his lab. “Really,” Gerstein said, pointing to a slim hard drive on the table, “this is Carl Zimmer.”
By “this,” he meant the sequence of my genome, which was being transferred from the drive onto a MacBook.
“I’m quite serious,” Gerstein said. “In about five minutes, he will be in this computer.”
I had come to Yale to give Gerstein and his colleagues my genome to explore. I wanted them to help me find out what was in there.
I was doing something far different — and far more exciting — than getting a conventional genetic test from a doctor or sending my spit to a genealogy company. Those tests typically only determine snippets of a person’s DNA, providing the sequence of less than 1 percent of the genome. Instead, I had gotten my entire genome sequenced and had then managed to get hold of all the raw data — the information that scientists use to understand how people’s genes help make them who they are.